Logistics: April 30, 2003

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For several decades, there have been calls to drop the division as the principal combat unit, and use the brigade instead. Many European armies have already made this switch. In effect, this means that the brigade, rather than the division, is the smallest unit that has all the support troops needed for independent operation. In Iraq, you actually saw brigades operating like this. This was mainly because there weren't that many American troops involved and a lot of territory had to be covered. The marines, however, have long organized their brigades as independent units, and that's how they operated in Iraq (although renamed "Regimental Combat Teams" for the occasion.) A more deliberate attempt at independent brigades is seen in the army's new Brigade Combat Teams. Of the 3,686 troops in this unit, only 2,250 are in the three infantry battalions. Ten percent of the troops are in the Brigade Support battalion. There are also company size units of intelligence, signal, anti-tank, artillery and engineers. The reconnaissance unit is battalion size, emphasizing the importance of information for a unit expected to operate in hostile territory without much support on the ground. But the support battalion is equipped to haul 308 tons of supplies and keep the brigade supplied with fuel, ammo, food and other supplies for months at a time. Pulling this off with slender resources depends on the use of computers, better communications and speed. All this got a tryout in Iraq, but no one wrote about it. Logistics is like that; you can't got to war without it, and you never hear about it.

 


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